Jalin Speed grabs his headphones. He pulls up songs from NBA Youngboy and Meek Mill and heads out the door. When Speed wants to clear his mind, he goes for a walk, listening to lyrics about pushing past obstacles to find success. It’s motivation.
So is Speed’s personal mantra, which he sometimes repeats to himself during his strolls.
“I tell myself, ‘I got to grind. I got to grind. This is for my mom. This is for my family. I got to get her a house. I got to get her a house. If I don’t get her a house, I’m failing her and myself,’ “ Speed said. “That’s how I think about it. I just think big on everything.”
It’s a lofty expectation for a high school senior, one set forth by the pressure of early responsibility and an adolescence spent bouncing from residence to residence.
With his father incarcerated, Speed felt he had to be the man of the house. “I’m just taking over for my little brother and my mom and my grandma,” he said. “I just got to do what I got to do for my family.”
Speed remembers transferring from one school to the next. He landed at Lancaster High early in his high school career, but it never felt like home to him. He didn’t feel the support system was in place to help push him to be his best as a student or football player.
He and his mother, Unjohna Weathers, were searching for another opportunity when they looked into Bishop Alemany High in Mission Hills.
“That’s the fit for you,” Speed remembers his mother saying.
Speed was spurred in a way he never had before. He was inspired to fulfill both halves of the term “student-athlete.” From tutoring sessions to punctuality to setting goals, Speed was pushed by his teachers, the school staff and football coach Casey Clausen and his staff.
“They made me more responsible and committed about everything,” Speed said.
But transferring to Alemany came with a steep price on the football field. Speed was ruled ineligible and had to sit his junior season. Not being able to play gave Speed a new perspective and drive.
The versatile 6-foot-2, 175-pound Speed grinded in the weight room and did his best to challenge his Warriors teammates in practice, playing defensive back and receiver, even though he couldn’t play on Fridays.
His hard work gave the Alemany coaches confidence to promote him to college recruiters, telling the schools that stopped by campus during the spring evaluation period to keep an eye on Speed. Sacramento State watched and liked what it saw. The Hornets didn’t offer him a scholarship but began building a relationship. Speed received his first scholarship opportunity from Brigham Young in May.
During the summer, Speed was focused on helping out and taking care of family matters, putting football on the back burner to an extent. But one of the events he did attend was a camp at Sacramento State. He had a strong showing and the coaching staff offered him a scholarship on the spot. They asked him to stick around to take a tour of the campus and learn more about the football program.
“I tried on the uniform and I just liked the love around me and the support around the teammates. I just felt like there’s a spot for me there,” Speed said. “It felt like it was home. We just kept talking and kept talking, building relationships over time.”
Speed has been willing to do whatever he can to help out Alemany this season, playing multiple positions, including a recent move to linebacker.
He committed to Sacramento State last week. “I felt like I needed to lock it up. It was just time,” he said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Alemany quarterback Miller Moss said. “Just everything he’s been through growing up, now being the first person in his family to attend college is amazing. Since the day he came on campus he has worked constantly and seeing that come to fruition has been great for both him and the entire program.”